THEOSOPHY, Vol. 23, No. 9, July, 1935
(Pages 385-395; Size: 30K)
(Number 7 of a 10-part series)



The present volumes have been written to small purpose if they have not shown ... that ... the apostolic succession is a gross and palpable fraud;... 

H.P.B.: Isis Unveiled, II, 544.

..down the slippery road to the quagmire of Infallibility, Direct Revelation, and Apostolic Succession,... 

H.P.B.: The Theosophist, June, 1882.

Madame Blavatsky has no "successor," could have none, never contemplated, selected, or notified one. 

W. Q. Judge: Lucifer, March, 1892.
CLAIMS of apostolic succession to great teachers are the groundwork of all revealers and theologians. Not alone the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but all religions and all their sects trace back to this fundamental fallacy in human nature. Just as the Spiritualists of every degree mistake the Kama-Rupa of the departed Ego for the Spiritual Being, so does religious-minded humanity mistake the "remains," the Skandhas of the Theosophical Movement, for the Movement itself.

H.P.B. knew full well what would follow upon her mission and her message. Besides the unequivocal and unmistakable utterances above quoted, she wrote in her Theosophist her repudiation in advance of the claims that would be made in her name, the words that would be put in her mouth, after her own death, by mediums, psychics, and the whole tutti quanti of self-styled "occultists." She said, in The Theosophist for March, 1883, in discussing Spiritualist claims made "Under the Shadow of Great Names":

"The common vice of trying to palm off upon the world the crude imaginings or rhapsodical concoctions of one's own brain, by claiming their utterance as under divine inspiration, prevails largely among our esteemed friends, the Spiritualists. ... The future has a gloomy look indeed to us when we think that, despite their best endeavours to the contrary, the Founders of the Theosophical Society are quite ... liable ... to an involuntary post-mortem recantation of their most cherished and avowed ideas."
The quotation given from Mr. Judge on the subject of "successors" shows that his own view was the same as that of H.P.B. This view was originally as emphatically shared by Mrs. Besant and by Colonel Olcott. Yet, as is shown in The Theosophical Movement, a bare four years had elapsed from the death of H.P.B. till Mrs. Besant herself set up the claim of being the "Successor" whom H.P.B. had "appointed." Her claim was accepted by Col. Olcott and many others, and was the foundation, root and trunk of her hold upon her followers till her own death; the Adyar society was corrupted by it. Unmistakable as has been and is the havoc wrought in this fragment of the Parent Society, the ruinous effects of the Successor-notion has run still deeper in the Point Loma society, in the Hargrove secession from it, and in the "Temple of the People."

Those who remained personally loyal to Judge must have known of the stand taken by him and by H.P.B.; must have been acutely aware of the disastrous effects of the succession-fallacy as shown before their eyes in the course taken by Mrs. Besant. Nevertheless, the ashes of Judge's body were scarcely cool before his surviving aides-de-camp saddled upon the membership of the T.S. in A. and its "Esoteric Section" the "gross and palpable fraud" of the Apostolic Succession of Katherine A. Tingley as the one "appointed" by Mr. Judge. The members simply took the solemn word of the "eight witnesses." But whose word did these eight witnesses take? Judge's?

Judge, like H.P.B. herself, was accustomed to speak for himself in plain language, over his own signature. Taking, argumenti gratia, the validity of the theory of succession and successor in spiritual, intellectual, and moral status -- is it conceivable that in a matter of such surpassing importance, H.P.B. would have "verbally appointed Mrs. Besant her successor," as Mr. Jinarajadasa so ingeniously injected into his Golden Book of the Theosophical Society? Is it imaginable that Mr. Judge should have orally appointed Madam Tingley his successor? The burden of proof is upon those who make claims, not on those who question them. This sound aphorism of human law is ignored by those who have most need to apply it, even in ordinary transactions. How much more it should be invoked where the question at issue is so transcendental as that involved in the claim of anyone soever to be an Occult successor to one who, being dead, can no longer testify in the forum of human affairs.

No statement in Judge's writing, or over his signature, has ever yet been offered in evidence that contains any appointment of anyone as his Occult successor, despite all the assertions made, at the time and since, of such an appointment. The assertions made, the failure to produce the evidence, damns the credibility of those who make the assertions, though it does not necessarily impeach the bona fides of the witnesses. Wholly sincere men are often deceived into testifying to what their own eyes are claimed to have seen, their own ears heard, when, in cold fact, their intensity of preconception or hallucination has deluded them. This is true in mundane matters: how much greater the susceptibility in transcendental affairs is shown by the endless list of great and good men who have regarded "communications," "revelations" and "visions" as substantial actualities. The problem of these claims and claimants is a psychological mystery, the key to which has never yet been found in the hands of religion, science, or spiritualism. The very Theosophists who would smile at the high-sounding names and claims of spiritualist mediums and religious psychics, swallow wholesale, in all too many instances, the like utterances emitted as "messages from the Masters."

All are familiar with the effects of opium, morphine, and alcoholic substances on the mental and moral as well as physical nature of their addicts. Few reflect seriously on their counterparts on other planes. There is astral and psychic intoxication and addiction as well as physical, and their effects upon the victim a thousand times more injurious and lasting. Such addicts can no more be reasoned with on the subject of their delusions than can an insane person of the ordinary kind. From the standpoint of pure Theosophy and true Occultism, all notions of a personal god, of infallibility, of direct revelation, of apostolic succession, and their like, are delusions. Are they any the less powerful in their hold on the race-mind? Because they are concerned with the inner and unknown principles of the Occult side of nature and of man, are theosophists immune to these risks and dangers?

Those who remained true to H.P.B. after her death had to be true to Judge, because his theosophical career is indistinguishable from hers. Was this a warrant for their own success in Occultism, a guarantee against the dark side of their own past or future Karma? Those who accepted Mrs. Besant's claims, those who accepted the claims made on behalf of Madam Tingley, were, manifestly, believers in "apostolic succession", or they would have rejected such a claim no matter by whom made. The citations given show indisputably that H.P.B. and Judge repudiated "apostolic succession" in theory and in fact. If, then, either of them ever appointed a successor, verbally or otherwise, they merely stultified themselves -- were themselves untrue to their own profession of philosophy and faith. In that case, they showed themselves to be such fallible if not unfaithful teachers and guides that it is a mystery why anyone should wish to pose as their "successor". On the other hand, philosophy and history alike are filled with the evidences that the credibility of any witness is in inverse proportion to his credulity -- with numberless instances of men under strain seeking "divine guidance" instead of using their common-sense to apply unvarying principles to the problems confronting them.

Many Theosophists seem to regard as of small moment the multitudinous conflicting successor claims and teachings. The desire for "fraternization" among many members of the various societies blinds them to the cause which has produced the existing schisms. Until that cause is seen and weighed truly by those who suffer from its effects, how could any species of co-operation be other than a pretense on the part of these conflicting successors, or other than a fraud upon the public which, behind the mask of such a fraternization, would find nothing but a welter of mutually adverse teachers and teachings?

Of the "eight witnesses" who, after "consulting the 'spirits'" instead of consulting the teaching and example of H.P.B. and Judge, gave their solemn asseverations that Judge had appointed Madam Tingley -- of these eight witnesses whose testimony was responsible, what has been the subsequent record?

E. T. Hargrove, the interlocutor of the whole proceedings, repudiated Madam Tingley in his pamphlet "E.S.T.", dated March 1, 1898 -- he who had been foremost in asserting that Madam Tingley "underwent a training and preparation even more rigid and comprehensive than that experienced by either H.P.B. or W.Q.J." Upon what grounds did he make the assertions contained in his pamphlet of May 17, 1896, "An Occultist's Life"? He himself says that he was "directed" to make these statements: by whom or by what? His repudiation two years later answers the question: He was "directed" to repudiate her occult hegemony by the same authority that inspired him to assert it less than two years earlier. That "authority" was Mr. Hargrove's own "communications from the Master" -- not anything else. If Mr. Hargrove, still in the land of the living, should choose to make an issue of the matters involved in the "Tingley succession", and his own unenviable share in them, he has abundant opportunity and occasion to do so.

James M. Pryse, still living, "folded his tents like the Arabs and as silently stole away" from Tingley to "Blue Star", and thence to doing business as an "occultist" on his own account.

Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Griscom, Jr., followed Mr. Hargrove in his secession from the Tingley succession.

Claude Falls Wright drifted out of any species of theosophical work whatever. He is now dead, as is H. T. Patterson whose influence was minor compared to the others.

E. August Neresheimer, still living, and, of all those who survived Judge, the best known, best loved, and most disinterested, had no "occult itch" but trusted to the assertions of Hargrove and the others -- Mr. Neresheimer made under oath a Statement, dated and signed February 25, 1932, containing the story of the events following the death of Judge. Mr. Neresheimer's Statement runs to 18 typewritten pages, from which the following extract is made:

"Among all the papers and other documents left by Mr. Judge, we found nothing whatever in his handwriting bearing upon the future conduct of the society after his death. Nor did we find anything in his writing naming Mrs. Tingley or anyone else, either directly or indirectly, as his successor in the affairs of the Theosophical Society in America, or any directions of any kind to be followed in the event of his death....

"Mr. Judge cannot, in my opinion, be held responsible for the mistakes -- made by others after his decease, since he never either by spoken or written word nominated, or even suggested a successor, or gave any instructions whatsoever as to the direction of the Society, or the 'Esoteric Section' after his death."

When it is recalled that Mr. Neresheimer was made by Mr. Judge his Executor and as such took possession of all his papers, including the famous so-called "Diary", the significance of this Statement makes it incumbent on those who still circulate the mythical "appointment" by Judge of Mrs. Tingley, to produce as well as to verify the authenticity of such an appointment in Judge's handwriting or over Judge's signature -- and as unequivocal as his repudiation of the "successor" notion itself.

Remains to be considered the case of Mr. Joseph H. Fussell, the last of the eight witnesses, and the only one of them who still maintains his faith in Madam Tingley's succession. Mr. Fussell's whole life has been an unbroken testimony, not to the authenticity of the Tingley succession, but to his unbounded belief in her as "Master's Agent". Nothing, we think, can better illustrate the lengths to which human nature can go than some extracts from The Theosophical Path of September, 1929, following the death of Madam Tingley. There, Mr. Fussell says:

"How shall I write about one, of the heights and depths of whose nature I realize now I had but the veriest glimpse? Yet that glimpse revealed to me such wisdom, such understanding of human nature and of life, such compassion and such tenderness, that she stands as one of the Great Ones, one of the Divine Helpers of Humanity."
Madam Tingley made an abundant record of her own during the thirty-three years of her undisputed supremacy from 1896 to 1929. From first to last that record is branded with an indisputable fact: freedom of thought and expression became and remained the "unpardonable sin" in her society. No one could question her "succession" or her status as "Master's agent" and remain persona grata in her society. The Constitution of the "Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society" gave her despotic authority over every officer, every member, every least activity, nor could that Constitution itself be changed without her own consent. If this was the case in the exoteric society, the dullest should be able to comprehend what sway she held and exercised over its "esoteric section." She changed the name, the pledge, the rules, the nature of the "esoteric section", even more drastically from its original objects than the exoteric society -- more so, in both departments, than had been the case even with Mrs. Besant. From the moment of her accession to the papal throne of "Successor", dry-rot began in the society which, from a world-wide membership and activity on the original lines, dwindled steadily till at her death its activities and its membership were limited almost in toto to the Colony "on the Hill" at Point Loma.

The published literature of her society is loaded with laudations of her greatness. Her own writings and lectures, "edited" though they were, betray unmistakably her pretensions, her incessant self-laudation as "Successor to H. P. Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge and Leader of the Theosophical Movement throughout the World". Her extravagance, her vanity, her childish self-indulgence, are notorious. Her counterpart can be found in hundreds of like cases throughout all religious history. This did not prevent, rather cemented, the blind devotion of the followers of such actual or pretended "seers", so that no one should be surprised to find the recrudescence of the same psychological phenomena in the careers of Mrs. Besant and Madam Tingley. What Theosophists need to do is to study these cases in the light of the Theosophy and Occultism of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge. In any event, all such cases pose the simple question: shall one accept the "testimony" of those whose faith and whose credulity know no bounds -- "testimony" which, when examined, is but "the opinion of the witness"; or shall one, desirous of arriving at "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," examine at first hand, in the light of world-old rules of evidence, the testimony provided by the acts, the words, the conduct of the "Successors" themselves?

It is certain that the more the case of H.P.B. or of Mr. Judge is examined and tested, the stronger will the proof appear of the gulf which separates them from the hoi polloi of "occultists", "initiates", and "successors", from the most noted to the least and latest. It is certain that more Mrs. Besant, Mr. Leadbeater, Madam Tingley and their like are examined and cross-examined on their own record, the stronger becomes the proof that they were anything but what they claimed for themselves.

Mr. Fussell continues:

"Among the most beautiful traits of Katherine Tingley's character was her devotion to her great Predecessor, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Few know how close was her relationship to H. P. Blavatsky....

"Let me try to sketch in barest outline two or three scenes from Katherine Tingley's life. The first of these: a beautiful home on an estate on the banks of the Merrimac in New England; a little child, hardly more than a baby, playing in the gardens close to the house; a woman in gypsy guise (a band of gypsies being in camp near by) coming towards the house. The child runs to her, is taken into her arms; the mistress of the house hurries out, orders the supposed gypsy away; but the child clings to her, calling her 'mother,' her 'real mother'; the gypsy holds the child a moment, then puts her down and bids the lady guard her well -- and is gone.

"The child was Katherine Westcott (later Katherine Tingley); the 'gypsy' was H. P. Blavatsky."

It seems almost a pity to state that the known itinerary of H. P. Blavatsky's life does not include a visit to the "banks of the Merrimac", nor even to the United States during the period indicated in Mr. Fussell's "sketch". Unless Mr. Fussell's information came via the same channel as the "Successor" myth, the source of this contribution to theosophical "history" would seem to have been Madam Tingley herself. Certainly, she contributed a whole array of equally valuable chronicles to the "faithful". Mr. Fussell's "outline" seems "sketchy" rather than a sketch, and is worthy to be placed in the same gallery with Mr. Hargrove's equally veracious "Occultist's Life". What serious Theosophists should note is that the quoted remarks by Mr. Fussell are, one is bound to believe, submitted for the information of inquirers, as well as for the sustentation of the faithful like himself. The matter is the more serious because Mr. Fussell was, during her career after 1898, her ablest supporter, as he now is of her "successor", Dr. de Purucker. Whatever one's respect for Mr. Fussell's assiduities, however one may pay tribute to his loyalty, misplaced though it be, all this does not make for his credibility or his reliability as a witness to anything in which his interest and his devotion are at stake.

It would scarcely seem worth while to follow Mr. Fussell through his additional "sketches", but it is well worth while for every student to ponder Mr. Fussell's closing words:

"Like her Predecessors, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and William Quan Judge, she was a Mystery....

"'Visualize'! 'Visualize!' 'Make a mind picture of your ideals', and 'before you know it the ideal has become the real and you have taken your place as a creator in the great scheme of life'. 'Dare to be yourself, your Greater Self', was her challenge."

Mr. Fussell would appear to have taken à la lettre these quoted admonitions of Madam Tingley. Certainly he has "visualized" Madam Tingley in rôles for which there exists no substantial evidence outside his own "mind-pictures", which his own words as well as his lifelong devotion to her show had at last converted the "ideal" into the real -- for him.

Mrs. Besant's ability and already acquired worldwide reputation were all-sufficient to serve as substitute for evidence, both in her "charges" against William Q. Judge and her claim to having been appointed by H.P.B. as successor. In Madam Tingley's case there was neither character, reputation, nor even ordinary knowledge of Theosophical teachings. Her subsequent, as her precedent career, is clouded and dubious in every sense. Yet she became and remained the pope of the T.S.A. and its E.S.T. as effectively as did Mrs. Besant in the Adyar fragment of the Parent T.S. What is the explanation? Its analogy exists in the lives of a dozen of the Roman Catholic Popes, and in the idea of popery itself -- for popery in any guise rests upon the assumption, in leader and led alike, of the very "Infallibility, Direct Revelation, and Apostolic Succession" which H.P.B. characterized as a "quagmire". The other name for popery is Spiritual Authority.

What this quagmire can do to the conscience, the reason, the common-sense of those caught in it, can be found in all history. It is that enemy of mankind which has wrought more havoc than all other sinister influences combined. Its effect upon Theosophists can be illustrated by a letter written in 1899 by Mr. Cyrus F. Willard to A. E. S. Smythe and by Mr. Smythe published in The Lamp for December 15 of that year. Mr. Smythe, it should be understood, had dared to question the "infallibility" of the Tingley conduct of affairs, had been "expelled", and in his own Lamp had begun to throw some rays of light into the theosophical night. Mr. Willard wrote to him:

"H.P.B. was my teacher from 1884 to 1891; W. Q. Judge from 1891 to 1896 and since the latter year Katherine A. Tingley has been my Teacher and is such now and as such Teacher I will not only render loyal obedience to all her suggestions in what concerns my connection with Theosophical work but will consider it an honour to receive her advice on any matter connected with my private life....

"Either Katherine A. Tingley is the direct link in the chain that leads up to the Eldest brother of the Race or she is not. If not, then the whole system is a fraud and delusion, Masters do not exist. They never sent H.P.B. as Messenger and W.Q.J. was a fraud and Katherine A. Tingley simply a harmless imitation, but this is not so....

"Katherine A. Tingley is the representative of the Masters who sent H.P.B. and was recognized by them and him as superior to W.Q.J. as far back as 1891 as I discovered by accident in looking over some of my old papers since coming to the Pacific Coast....

"Either They did not know Their business when They selected her or They did....

"Recognizing fully as I hope I do, the solemn obligations I owe to my Teacher ... I object, protest, condemn and resent any attack upon her, her methods or policy."

It is to be observed that Mr. Willard never produced the "old papers" attesting the greatness of Madam Tingley; that he subsequently repudiated her hegemony; that he is now convinced that in "masonry" is the place to prepare for the next Messenger -- but his letter shows the influence on him of the "Successor" notion for many years, and which is the "quagmire" from which few escape, once their reasoning faculty is engulfed in it. Is there any fundamental difference between the attitude of mind disclosed in Mr. Willard's letter and that of a sincere Catholic toward the Pope, or of any sincere religious mind toward its priest and sect? Is it to effect such results that the Theosophical Movement and the Theosophical philosophy exist? Can any sect or any society with such ideas and ideals for its substratum and support serve the great Objects of the Masters of Wisdom? These are questions that need to be continually placed before inquirers and as continually pondered by all who would wish to escape this pitfall of human nature.

Madam Tingley dead, it was inevitable that the forlorn remnant "on the Hill" should look for her Successor -- and find him. The "Purple" garment fell on Dr. G. de Purucker, whose "appointment" to that honor was as dubious as had been Madam Tingley's own. Amid the recent literature of Point Loma affairs is a pamphlet issued by Dr. Hyman Lischner. Dr. Lischner was himself from youth a devoted member of the Point Loma society, with a faith comparable to Mr. Willard's and Mr. Fussell's, so that he regarded what went on before his eyes as a "test" of his own loyalty and fitness. To doubt, to question, to apply to the "Leader and Successor" the same principles of conduct as were held out to the obedience of the faithful; to stand on his own feet and use his own reason and conscience -- this was to be guilty of "mortal sin". At last, as in Mr. Willard's case, Dr. Lischner's eyes were forced open by the course of Karma rather than by his own will. He left "the Point", and his pamphlet contains some correspondence between himself, Dr. de Purucker, and Mr. Fussell; also an addendum with an exchange of letters between Iverson L. Harris and Dr. Lischner, a copy of Madam Tingley's Will, and the Minutes of the "E.S." meeting of August 8, 1929, presided over by Dr. de Purucker as "Outer Head", following Madam Tingley's death.

Dr. Lischner's correspondence is of a similar character to the letters addressed by the late T. H. Martyn to Mrs. Besant, with which all Theosophical students are, or should be, acquainted. In the one case as in the other, the devoted member writes to the Successor and Leader for light on troubled waters. Dr. Lischner's pamphlet of 38 pages is dated May 8, 1931, and constitutes a revelation of quite another nature than the kind which emanates from the "Infallible". It is a telling documentation indeed.

No candid reader can fail to be impressed by the difference in tone between the letters sent by Dr. Lischner and the replies made by the Point Loma "Leader." Thus, Dr. Lischner, still at the time of his first letter, September 1, 1929, a member both of the Point Loma society and of its "E.S.", asks for the evidence of the "visits of the Master" to Dr. de Purucker, as asserted to the "E.S." meeting following the death of Madam Tingley; and for the proof of Dr. De Purucker's appointment by Madam Tingley as her successor-to-be. Dr. de Purucker's reply, dated September 5, 1929, fills nine pages of fine print in Dr. Lischner's pamphlet. He begins by saying to Dr. Lischner: "at the present moment my mind is divided between a disposition to laugh at you and a disposition to consider your letter as the outpouring of a wounded soul or heart, whichever you like, asking for more light."

The whole of Dr. de Purucker's long letter reads for itself as a "plea in avoidance," and the subsequent correspondence but confirms the position into which any "successor" is forced: a plethora of assertions, an entire paucity of evidence. In the course of his letter, however, Dr. de Purucker unwittingly makes some astounding admissions. One of these admissions vitiates the whole claim that Judge appointed Madam Tingley his "successor," and throws out of court the whole long-carried-on Point Loma assertions that he did. Dr. de Purucker says:

"Judge never appointed K.T. by any legal document. The proofs that K.T. gave of her mission and the reality of her being the Messenger of the Lodge, were the same that Blavatsky and Judge gave. Changing circumstances, my dear boy, mean changing methods, and K.T.'s therefore were different from Judge's, as Judge's were different from Blavatsky's; but the policy is the same from beginning to end."
Dr. de Purucker's "visits from the Masters," his "Letters" written in Their great Names, his campaign for "fraternization" among the warring theosophical societies, esoteric sections, leaders and successors -- his plea for the position of Pope or "Spiritual Authority" for which all these were but advertising, call for careful examination of the over-abundant material provided by him. To these matters, then, let us give attention.

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